NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue. The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind. Here are a few of my “shoulds”:
- I should be more productive.
- I should make more money.
- I should get a real job.
- I should get up earlier.
- I should dress nicely more often.
Why Should I?
The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?” The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:
- To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
- That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
- To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
- Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
- I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).
Should – A Damaging Word…
Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language. Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice. She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.
I Could… Why Haven’t I?
The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:
- In truth, I am quite productive. I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity. I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
- The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money. My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do. I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
- I want to be passionate about what I’m doing. I want to like what I do. I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire. I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
- I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night. If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
- I do dress nicely when it matters. If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable. When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle. I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).
From Should to Choice
The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place. In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult. Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief. My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society. Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.
One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them. As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment. Awareness can lead to power and choice.
Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”
In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others. For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.
For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items. I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.
In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me. My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me. I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.
Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!
The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs. I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do. I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time. In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…
I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!